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NAWL 2012 Survey Report Final

NAWL 2012 Survey Report Final

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12/04/2012

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1
 
The National Association of Women Lawyers
 ® 
and The NAWL Foundation
 ® 
R
EPORT OF THE
S
EVENTH
A
NNUAL
 NAWL
 
N
ATIONAL
S
URVEY ON
R
ETENTION AND
P
ROMOTION OF
W
OMEN IN
L
AW
F
IRMS
 
O
CTOBER
2012
Copyright 2012 by The NAWL Foundation. All rights reserved
.
 
2
Report of the Seventh Annual NAWL National Survey on Retention andPromotion of Women in Law Firms
 byBarbara M. Flom
i
 The National Association of Women Lawyers® and The NAWL Foundation® are pleased to report the results of the seventh annual National Survey on the Retention andPromotion of Women in Law Firms (“Survey”).
ii
The NAWL Survey is the only nationalstudy that annually tracks the professional progress of women in the nation's 200 largestlaw firms by providing a comparative view of the careers and compensation of men andwomen lawyers at all levels of private practice, as well as analyzing data about factorsthat influence career progression. The Survey aims to provide (a) an empirical picture of how women lawyers forge long-term careers and attain leadership roles in firms, (b) benchmarking statistics for firms to use in measuring their own progress, and (c) over amulti-year period, longitudinal data for cause-and-effect analyses of the factors thatenhance or impede the progress of women in firms.In this seventh year of the Survey, it is worth stepping back and taking note of the broader economic picture and the changing nature of law practice, since these phenomenaaffect both women's and men's potential for advancement and success in the large lawfirm environment. When we issued the first Survey Report in late 2006, the U.S.economy was buoyant and law firm revenues were growing at an impressive pace.AmLaw 200 firms were hiring record numbers of entering associates. Since then, of course, much has changed, and the 2012 Survey responses clearly indicate that large lawfirms have not fully recovered.
 
3
In this challenging economic environment, faced with flat or even decliningrevenues, law firms have scrambled to control their own costs, the lion's share of whichare personnel costs. In addition to reducing the size of incoming associate classes (in afew publicized cases even canceling employment offers to law students), firmsterminated lawyers at all levels, de-equitized partners, and trimmed support staff.Moreover, firms have been forced to adopt more cost-effective ways of handling certainmatters. Low-level, repetitive work is frequently delegated to lawyers who have lower  billing rates than even junior associates: (a) staff attorneys (i.e., non-partner-track lawyerswithin the firm), (b) lawyers in firm subsidiaries (or captives) formed to perform this typeof legal work at a lower cost, or (c) contract lawyers who work for independentcompanies in the U.S. or even outside the U.S. And one traditional bulwark of law firmhours, document review, is undergoing a sea change because of increasinglysophisticated technology for electronic data analysis.
iii
 Also, continuing a trend we have noted in previous Survey Reports, the structureof law firms has grown more complex. The typical AmLaw 200 firm is now a two-tier  partnership with many different categories of lawyer in a leveraged structure: 151 equity partners (barely 15% women), 91 non-equity partners (26% women), 54 counsel (35%women), 188 associates (46% women), and 11 staff attorneys (70% women). As the preceding numbers clearly show, women constitute a smaller percentage of each categoryas you move up the career ladder. In other words, over the course of time women exit lawfirms disproportionately more than their male peers. Moreover, it is troubling to note thatthe percentages of women equity partners and women associates in the typical firm havedeclined slightly during the past two years.

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